Courtesy of Bonne Terre Mine
By Chanelle Koehn
Beneath the Ozark town of Bonne Terre lies a billion-gallon lake where one of the world’s largest lead mines once was. The mine was abandoned in 1961, but two St. Louis natives have transformed it into a fresh water scuba diving resort.
Owners Doug and Cathy Goergens first plunged into the lake in 1978. Doug recalls that first dive as a little scary but amazing. “It was pure darkness,” he says. “We had to light the cave with lamps as we went.”
Since then, the Goergens have illuminated the cave and established over twenty-four different dive trails throughout the passages, which divers can explore on guided tours. Divers can see pick axes, shovels, old oar carts still on the tracks, oil drills, slurry pipes, scaffolding, and an old elevator shaft.
Temperatures remain in the sixties year-round. Doug says the mine’s prime diving season is October through May because there are few places outside of the Caribbean to dive in warm waters during fall and winter. This October, divers can participate in an underwater pumpkin carving contest and an underwater ghost scavenger hunt at the Bonne Terror event.
You can dive on Saturday with continuation of Saturday dives into Sunday. Guided diving tours typically last thirty-five to forty-five minutes. Prepaid reservations and open-water scuba diving certification are required to dive. A seven millimeter wet suit and a hood are also needed.
Dives are seventy dollars each with a two-dive minimum, and most visitors do at least three on Saturdays. Visit 2dive.com/btm.htm, or call 314-209-7200 for more information.